Viva la Selva!

Natasha Barrett

Viva la Selva! has been performed in Edinburgh, Helsinki, Montréal and Oslo…

In the New Year of 1999 a number of items of recording apparatus, a colleague, and myself travelled to a Central American rain forest. The aim of this adventure was to record animal vocalisations over a continuous 24-hour period with a microphone array. The data we recorded was used for bioacoustic research and music composition.

In Viva la Selva! (Long live the forest!), source sounds, the locations of animal vocalisations, the vocal and spatial relationships between different animal species, the change in dynamics over the 24-hour period, and my experience venturing through a dense jungle, daytime and night-time, all contribute to the musical and narrative structure.

Most of the source sounds are insect, bird, frog and monkey calls. Some of these animals can be seen, while other bizarre sounds do not reveal their causes. After some days in the forest, the spectral distribution of the sound environment revealed interesting inter-species sound relationships, and this idea is manifest in the composition where many animal calls have been temporally and spatially substituted by human vocal articulations.

Part of the 24-hour recording period took place at night, during which time it was necessary to venture into the forest to change DATs and batteries. Armed with only a torch, vision is confined to a single shaft of light, yet in the expanse of darkness, a busy system is at play…

Viva la Selva! stars mantled howler monkeys, white capped manakin birds, poison arrow frogs, cikadas, tink frogs, oropendola birds, tinamou birds, a humming bird, mosquitoes, a single engine aeroplane, and numerous other forest and forest-edge animals.

[traduction française: Jean-Pierre Noiseux, Traçantes]

Viva la Selva! was realized in 1999 in the electroacoustic studio of the Music conservatory in Tromsø (Norway) and premiered on October 2, 1999 at the NICEM (Norwegian Section of the International Confederation for Electroacoustic Music) concert during the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival (Norway). Viva la Selva! was commissioned by NICEM with support from the Norsk Komponistforening (Norwegian Society of Composers). Viva la Selva! was awarded a prize at the Ciber@RT International Festival of New Technologies, Art and Communicaton (Valencia, Spain, 1999), and at the Prix SCRIME (Bordeaux, France, 2000).


  • October 2, 1999, Concert, Oslo (Norway)


stereo fixed medium




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